Goleta Depot Days at the South Coast Railroad Museum

Goleta Depot Days at the South Coast Railroad Museum title=
Goleta Depot Days at the South Coast Railroad Museum
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By Robert Bernstein

This past weekend was the 36th Annual Goleta Depot Days at the South  Coast Railroad Museum!

Here are all my videos and photos!

The Goleta Depot was originally built by Southern Pacific Railroad in 1901. It was located on Depot Road off of South Kellogg Avenue in what is now called Old Town Goleta. Southern Pacific closed the station in October 1973 and it was then damaged by squatters who lived in it.

Goleta Beautiful obtained rights to the building and arranged to move  it to its current location in Lake Los Carneros County Park on Los Carneros Road. The 2.9 mile move occurred November 18-19, 1981 mostly in the overnight hours. It was moved in two sections by truck and trailer.

Here is a photo of it being moved across the Fairview Overcrossing above Highway 101 early on the morning of November 19, 1981

After extensive fundraising and restoration, the building opened at an official dedication on October 10, 1982. During which the building also was officially recognized as Santa Barbara County Historical
Landmark No. 22 It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources and is the main building of the South Coast Railroad Museum.

The first thing we did upon arriving by bicycle on Saturday was to buy tickets for the rides!

And the first ride we chose was the Miniature Train Ride. The locomotive is powered by an electric generator engine. We were told it is getting old and can no longer pull a full load. So, we had to wait our turn as a small group boarded ahead of us

They were soon off and running

This young man waited with us for the next ride. His mother told us he chose this railroad outfit without even knowing about the adventure lying ahead for the day!

When the train returned, we got to watch how it was prepared to head back out by using the locomotive turntable to reverse the locomotive

Then we boarded

And volunteer conductor Willy explained the safety rules

Then we were on our way. Here are some photos along the way from the miniature train

I noticed that conductor Willy followed us and I asked why. He said in case the train runs off the tracks. Guess what? It immediately ran off the tracks as he watched!

We got off the train, he repositioned the derailed car and we were on our way again with no further mishaps

Just a brief pause to chat with those waiting at another miniature train stop before continuing

Here is my video of the final bits of the ride

Back at the miniature train boarding area we disembarked from the train and our volunteer engineer Ryan Bates waved to us

And then he used the locomotive turntable to prepare for the next ride

Next on the agenda was the Railroad Inspector Car or "Speeder". We watched as other passengers got a ride on this little vehicle meant for railroad maintenance workers to get to job sites. It has a
primitive two-stroke engine that is quite loud and belches blue smoke from its oil-gasoline fuel mix.

Then it was our turn to ride

Volunteer Bob Mahan was up from Ventura County to operate this finicky vehicle.

He explained the tricky procedure needed to reverse direction, showing us the controls up close

The "Speeder" has no transmission, just a drive belt. So, there are no gears. Meaning, no reverse gear! So, how to you reverse direction? You cut the throttle and wait for the engine almost to die. Then, you shove a lever that changes the spark plug timing. The timing causes the engine and flywheel to reverse direction! Kind of brutal to the machinery! But it is a cheap way to avoid needing a reverse gear!

Here is my nice long video of our ride! I zoom in at each reversal on his hands on the controls so you can see what he does to change direction

If you ever shopped at the clothing store on State Street called Namaste (it is one of my favorite stores!) you may recognize the woman on the left who worked there

The final cool ride was the Hand Car. I always think of Blazing Saddles when I see one of these! The last time I pumped one was about 20 years ago at a previous Goleta Depot Days!

Caixia was a regular on my Sierra Club hikes for awhile. She is a visiting researcher at UCSB Geography. Now she has to look after her son by herself, so no hikes for her for now. But she and her son had fun at the Depot Day! Here they are on the Hand Car


Then Caixia returned the favor and recorded us pumping away


After completing all the cool rides we relaxed and explored the Depot building itself

A volunteer waited to read stories to children

And there were various historical displays

We headed over to the main office where volunteers explained the operations

There was no way to communicate with a moving train in the early days
of the Depot. Telegraphs were used to communicate between stations.

But the only way to communicate with the train was to physically pass orders to and from a moving train. This meant passing actual pieces of paper back and forth. Various kinds of mechanical catchers were used to do the passing. A tricky operation! Even when radio was developed, the papers were still passed as the "official" orders.

The Depot now also houses an extensive model railroad layout that represents the Santa Barbara and Goleta area in diorama form

Can you find State Street?

Outdoors there were more model railroads and model railroad cars on display over a wide range of scales! These volunteers showed off the tiny Z-scale layout running on a table top alongside a display of different model railroad scales

Running trains out on the lawn ranged from authentic

To whimsical

And then there was the circus train. There really were circus trains until quite recently

In the Visitor Center there were goodies to buy. And more model railroad layouts running over your head!

This brought back memories of the Lionel model trains my brother and I had as kids. I still have some of them saved to this day!

There were other activities and displays scattered around the grounds for the occasion. Here was a display of train whistles

A train-shaped bounce house

And art projects for kids

And there was talented and versatile singer Rick Reeves playing guitar in many popular genres!

Here is a bit of his performance of "Secret Agent Man"

Goleta Depot Days happens just one weekend each year. However, the South Coast Railroad Museum is currently open every Friday through Sunday from 1-4PM for you to enjoy some of the sights and experiences on display here! And they can always use train enthusiast volunteers!

Click here for more information!

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Flicka Aug 15, 2018 01:35 PM
Goleta Depot Days at the South Coast Railroad Museum

Thank you for the photos. My Grandma got off the train at that station in 1903. Her widowed mother was taking her brood of 5 or 6 to San Francisco to look for work. Someone on the train said Santa Barbara was a good place with plenty of work. Great-grandma left the kids at this station, with my 12 y/o Grams in charge, rented a horse and buggy, went into SB, got a job as a cook at St. Vincent's Orphanage on De la Vina, picked her children up and stayed (thankfully!)

sbrobert Aug 16, 2018 05:37 PM
Goleta Depot Days at the South Coast Railroad Museum

FLICKA: Thank you for that very personal story of your family and the Goleta Depot. Certainly a happy ending for you!
TJTOM: Thank you for the very kind words!
We are fortunate to have so many ordinary citizens who are dedicated to preserving our history and sharing it with the community!

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